It’s early May, whale shark season here in Exmouth, Western Australia, but today’s underwater adventure doesn’t involve swimming frantically alongside the planet’s biggest fish, trying to keep up with its effortless-looking movement. No, I’ve been lucky enough to have swum with whale sharks on a couple previous visits to the 604,500ha World Heritage-listed Ningaloo Coast, so today I’m checking out another area highlight: the underwater world of the Muiron Islands (North Muiron and South Muiron), located nine nautical miles north-northeast of Exmouth.
The speedboat ride between the marina and our destination, off the western side of South Muiron, takes about an hour and is bumpy at times.
I remain glued to my seat, thankful for the prescription-level seasickness tablets I ingested earlier (which are only partially working).
Waters are calmer once we reach the shelter of the islands, but I’m still glad that snorkelers get to abandon the boat and embrace the 26-degree Centigrade water first, while the scuba divers are still gearing up.
Just yesterday, I visited a couple of Ningaloo Reef sites near Coral Bay, about an hour and a half south of Exmouth. There, I encountered a beautiful, golden brown reef landscape.
Comparatively, the deeper corals at this South Muiron site sing with colour.
As I follow my guide north, pale pink, lavender, peach, and yellow hard corals stretch out over the depths, 10 to 14 metres below.
Freediving down for a better look, a world of varied, abundant fish dance before my camera: angelfish, parrotfish, butterflyfish, trumpetfish, wrasse, and many more.
Changing course and swimming along the reef’s edge, we soon spot a green turtle resting under some corals.
Five minutes later, another glides below through the blue expanse.
Muiron Islands underwater escape
The depths on this initial hour-long snorkel make me think this part of the Muiron Islands is better suited for scuba diving, particularly since not all of the snorkelers are free diving.
However, our second snorkel, at another spot off South Muiron, takes us to shallower waters, where the corals are only two to three metres below the surface.
We glimpse an octopus and reef sharks and come eye to eye with a hawksbill turtle swimming alongside a school of fish.
Our time observing this turtle is brief, though, as it soon disappears into a heavenly cloud of yellow convict surgeonfish.
Unfortunately, a building swell keeps us from moving to the island’s eastern side for our final snorkel. Instead, we remain at our current anchorage and drift south.
It’s not the most impressive snorkel of the day, but the waters are reasonably shallow, and we still see plenty of fish, a couple turtles, and perhaps thousands of convict surgeonfish, feeding with fervour on the corals below.
Does snorkelling the Muiron Islands beat the thrill of a whale shark swim? Of course not. But the pristine underwater landscape and abundant marine life make this a rewarding choice for another day.
Potshot Hotel Resort is located in Exmouth with deluxe apartments, self-contained units, motel rooms, and backpacker accommodation, phone (08) 9949 1200.
Exmouth Diving Centre is located behind the Potshot Hotel Resort. Its Muiron Islands snorkelling tour includes snacks, lunch, and snorkelling equipment. It also offers dive trips there, with depths averaging between 12 and 16 metres.
Exmouth has plenty of other snorkelling and diving possibilities, some accessible just off the beach in nearby Cape Range National Park.